Things and Stuff

sweeping

I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

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scully

I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

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kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

I’m not sure what to write next.

portlandia
courtesy Portlandia

Yes, I’ve blogged about this before.  I have a bunch of ‘maybe’ projects simmering on the back burner, waiting to be picked up and worked on, or trunked and forgotten.  It’s not going to take center stage until I finish and release The Balance of Light, so it’s going to be a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start with the pre-production.  I can certainly start playing around with outlines, character sheets, timelines and whatnot.  Just that the bulk of the project won’t begin until at least sometime this autumn.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of starting a new project.  As I’ve said before, it’s been so long since I’ve come up with a completely new idea that sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it.  [I don’t always think this, though…one of the ‘maybes’ came out of nowhere during my 750 Words exercises, so I know I can do it.]

I know I sometimes overthink this part of the process; it’s the most stereotypical of writer’s blocks: what should I write?  We focus too much on wanting/needing to start something.  It’s like when you need to start that term paper for English class, but you have no idea what to write about…and that’s when you start stressing, because you’re focusing too much on getting it done before deadline and not enough on the writing itself.

I try to keep my mind open when new ideas come to me; more to the point, I try not to rely mainly on chance and random inspiration, because that almost never works.  The trick is to sow some kind of seed of an idea and work with it for a bit, see if you can make something out of it.  I tend to be a pantser in terms of writing, so what I consider my best ideas usually come from something only distantly related to it: one of the ‘maybes’ I have on tap came to me out of someone else mentioning the Osmonds in passing on their blog.  Out of that came the idea of writing a fictional music biography.

I have an idea jar here in Spare Oom, a long narrow glass jar with a plastic stopper that I bought for a dollar-something at the kitchenware store up the street.  I haven’t used it in some time, but there’s a few years’ worth of scrap paper in there of passing ideas.  Thoughts that came to mind that I didn’t have time to follow up on.  Just images, scenes, or characters that popped into my head while I was doing something else.  I haven’t even looked at these notes for some time, so now I’m curious as to what’s listed.  I used a few of them for my daily practice words a year or so ago.  Perhaps it’s time to do that again.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write after the Bridgetown Trilogy is done, but at least I’m going to be somewhat prepared.

On Writing: Who Am I Writing For?

gromit

I’ll admit, that’s not a question I often thought about when I first started writing, because the answer was most likely going to be: well, ME, of course.  What a silly question!

I’ve tried in the past to write for a specific audience, and it never quite panned out the way I wanted it to.  Love Like Blood was me trying to write to the urban fantasy crowd.  Two Thousand was me trying to write for the litfic crowd.  True Faith was me trying to write for the sf/virtual reality crowd of the mid 90s.  All three projects have since been trunked, as I found them to be some of my worst work.  Paved with good intentions, but let’s face it: I was pandering.  I was trying to write for an easy buck.

Recently I’ve been thinking about who I’m writing for, and each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still writing for who I want to write for:  just your regular blue-collar joe who likes to read.  Yes, I’m still writing for me, but I’ve noticed the biggest response I get from readers is not always the avid science fiction/fantasy reader, but those I know who like to read a little (or a lot) of everything.  Someone who might read the latest George RR Martin but follow it up with, say, a history of 60s counterculture.  Or maybe not even that: someone who just likes reading what they like reading, and don’t necessarily fit into the definition of ‘avid fan’.

That’s not to say I find avid genre fans beneath my stature, far from it.  I just know that I’m not a hard sf writer or a military sf writer or even a high fantasy writer.  I just write what comes to mind, and I try to fill my created worlds with people and ideas that my readers will connect with.

The Mendaihu Universe might be chock full of spirituality, but I try not to write religious/spiritual fiction, which is its own genre.  The characters in this universe of mine have the same issues as readers: frustration, fear, indecision, confusion, irritation.  I put the characters into an everyday situation that just happens to have a supernatual/spiritual setting.  And for the most part, I think I pull it off, because nearly all my readers so far have commented on that as a definite plus to the worldbuilding.

I’ve been thinking about this in part because I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell my trilogy now that two-thirds of it is already out there.  It’s one thing to self-publish and release it, but it’s quite another to get it out there and advertise it.  As much as I dislike sales, I do need to think about who my target audience would be.  I know, I should probably think of this WHILE I’m writing the stories, but that can’t always happen.  Again: if I write to order, I write horribly.   I can only write what I know I can write.

But what about my other projects?  The non-MU stories?  Who am I writing for then?  I probably won’t know until the project starts.  I have some non-genre stories in mind that could easily be quirky litfic.  I have some genre stories that would fit nicely in the urban fantasy mold.

For me, I guess the only way I’ll know is when I start writing the damned things!

Feeling Twitchy

The problem with going through a major editing/revision/release process is that it eats up quite a lot of time I set aside for my writing.  It leaves precious little time for any new work unless I sneak some time in during the day.  [Which I’m doing right now…this post is being written in the slow moments of my Day Job.]

This makes me twitchy.  I want to write something new, but deadlines loom.  I don’t mind the editing/revising part of the job, but the longer it takes, the more I have that itch to pick up a notebook and start working on a new project.  Not out of avoiding the revision process, but that I start feeling rusty.  I feel the need to write new words somewhere, anywhere.  My personal journal entries (which I write during my midmorning break) are getting more verbose, and I’ve been blogging like a fiend lately.  My brain is clogged with Future Plans for When I’m Caught Up.  I’ve got ideas for the Inktober art meme.  I have a few stories simmering and a new MU story in stasis.

I believe it’s time for me to get creative with my writing time again.

So many words, so little time!